All ears

Fully listening.

Break a leg


Cold feet

Nervous just before a big event.

Cost an arm and a leg

To be very expensive.

Cry your heart out

Cry very hard.

Face the music

Meet, stand up to unpleasant conseqences, for example criticism or punishment.

(My) flesh and blood


Get something off one’s chest

Tell someone your problems.

Give a hand, lend a hand

Help (someone) do something.

Have one’s head in the clouds

Be unaware or unrealistic about something.

Head over heels

Deeply in love.

Head start

An earlier start.

In over one’s head

Taking on a task that you can’t handle.

Keep an eye on

Take care of, watch in order to protect.

Keep one’s chin up

Try to be cheerful.

Learn by heart, know by heart


Let one’s hair down

Relax, have fun.

(My) lips are sealed

Promise to keep a secret.

Makes my blood boil

Makes me very angry.

Neck of the woods

Nearby location or region.

(An) old hand

An experienced person.

Over my dead body

Not unless I’m dead and can’t stop you.

Pat on the back

Recognition or a thank-you.

Play something by ear

Do something without a plan.

Pull one’s leg

Joke or tease someone.

Rule of thumb

Basic rule (not always followed)..

See eye to eye


(By the) skin of one’s teeth

Just barely.

Stick your neck out

Help someone a lot, with possible bad consequences for oneself.

Sweet tooth

A love of sugar or sweet things.

Thick in the head

Not very intelligent.

Wash one’s hands of something

Stop dealing with an issue or problem.

Think on your feet

To make decisions quickly.

See eye to eye

Two (or more)people agree on something.

Hit the nail on the head

Do or say something exactly right.

A list as long as your arm

A very long list.

A shot in the arm

Something which has a sudden and positive effect on something.

Give your right arm

To want something very much.

The long arm of the law

The police.

To chance your arm

To take a chance in order to get something that you want.


To use force and threats to make people do what you demand.

To twist someone’s arm


To persuade someone to do something they do not want to do.

Back to back

To be close together and facing in opposite directions.

Back passage

A polite phrase for rectum.

Behind someone’s back

To do something without them knowing, in a way which is unfair.

The shirt off someone’s back

The last thing that someone has left.

To break your back

To work extremely hard.

To get off someone’s back

To tell someone to stop criticizing.

To get someone’s back up

To really annoy someone.

To put your back into something

To work very hard at something.

To scratch someone’s back

To offer to help someone if they help you.

To stab someone in the back

To say nasty things about someone when they are not there.

To turn your back on something/someone

To stop being involved.

To have your back to the wall

To be in a difficult or desperate situation.

Water off a duck’s back.

Criticisms of or warnings to a particular person that have no effect on that person.

To show a bit of backbone

To show fortitude and determination.

To go belly up

To be ruined or defeated, especially financially.

Thanks to Sally Hiller

To have a beer belly

A beer belly (or pot belly) is , is the accumulation of visceral fat resulting in an increase in waist size. Aka: abdominal obesity, clinically known as central obesity.

Body politic

A politically organized group of people under a single government.

Over my dead body

To be unwilling to allow something to happen.

A bone of contention

Something that people argue about over a long period of time.

As smooth as a baby’s bottom


Very smooth.

Bottom out

To reach the lowest point in a continuously changing situation and to be about to improve.

Brain drain

The movement of people with education and skills from their own country to another country where they are paid more for their work.

To brain someone


To hit someone on the head.

To be all brawn and no brain


To be physically strong but not very intelligent.

To beat your brains out

To spend a lot of time worrying about a problem and thinking about how to deal with it.

To pick someone’s brain

To ask for information or advice from someone who knows more about a subject than you do.

Scatterbrain / Scatterbrained

A flighty and disorganized person.



To have a bun in the oven


To be pregnant.

Calf length

Clothing or boots that end at the middle point between the foot and the knee.

Tongue in cheek

When you say something as a joke, although you might appear to be serious.

Cheek by jowl

If things or people are cheek by jowl, they are very close together.

To beat your breast/chest

To show grief or guilt in an obvious or public way.

To get something off your chest

To tell someone about something that has been worrying you or making you feel guilty for a long time.

To put hairs on your chest

To drink something that is alcoholic or eat something nice.

Chin up

Something you say to someone to tell them to have confidence.

Keep your chin up


Something that you say to someone in a difficult situation in order to encourage them to be brave and to try not to be sad.

Take it on the chin

To be brave and not complain when bad things happen to you or people criticise you.

To box someone’s ears

To hit someone on the ear, usually as a punishment.

To not believe your ears

To be unable to believe something you hear.

To be out on your ear

To be forced to leave somewhere because you have done something wrong, or because your work is not good enough.

To go in one ear and out the other

Used when someone isn’t paying attention to what is being said, or obviously has no intention of acting upon it.

Elbow grease

To do some hard work, especially when you are cleaning something.

Elbow room


Enough space to move around in. 

The freedom to do what you want to do.

To give someone the elbow

To end a romantic relationship with someone.

The naked eye


If something can be seen with the naked eye, it can be seen without the help of a microscope.


When someone or something is particularly attractive or noticeable.

In the blink of an eye

Extremely quickly.

Keep an eye on something / someone

To watch or look after something or someone.

Keep an eye out for something / someone

To watch carefully for someone or something to appear.

Run your eye over

To look quickly at the whole of something. 

Turn a blind eye

To ignore something that you know is wrong.

To have eyes in the back of your head

Used to describe people who always seem to know what you are doing (usually mothers or teachers).

Keep your eyes peeled

To watch very carefully.

To raise eyebrows

To shock people.

Keep your feet on the ground

To have a realistic understanding of your own ideas, actions, and decisions.

To stuff your face

To eat a lot, very quickly and greedily. (negative)

To face up to something

To accept a usually unpleasant fact.

Itchy feet

To be restless and have a strong desire to travel.

To drag your feet


To be deliberately slow (usually because you don’t want to do something).

To get cold feet


To suddenly become too frightened to do something you had planned to do.

To put your feet up

To relax.

To be a butterfingers

Somebody who often drops things

Cross fingers


People, usually children, sometimes cross their fingers behind their back when they’re telling a lie thinking it gives them immunity. (Not to be confused with keeping your fingers crossed for luck.)

Have a finger in every pie

To be involved in lots of different things.

Keep your fingers crossed


To literally cross your middle finger over your first finger to try and hope for a bit of luck, or a positive outcome.

To not lift a finger

To be unwilling to help.

To point the finger

To accuse someone of being responsible for something bad that has happened.

Pull your finger out

To start working harder.

To put your finger on something

To discover the exact reason why a situation is the way it is, especially when something is wrong.

To be all fingers and thumbs

To be clumsy and unable to hold things steadily without fear of dropping or damaging them.

Best foot forward .

To do your very best.

To put your foot in it.

To say something by accident which embarrasses or upsets someone.

To get in someone’s hair

To annoy someone.

The hair of the dog

An alcoholic drink taken when one has a hangover.

To pull your hair out

To be very worried about something.

At first-hand

If you experience something first-hand, you experience it yourself.

Hand over fist


To do something at a very fast rate.

To be a dab hand

To be very good at something.

To be an old hand

To have a lot of experience in something.

To have a free hand

To have the power to do what you want.

To have a hand in something

To be involved in something.

To have the upper hand

To have power and control over someone or a situation.

To be caught red handed

To be discovered doing something illegal or wrong.

To be hand in glove

To have an extremely close relationship, especially at work.

Many hands make light work

When everyone helps to do something, it gets done quickly.

On your own head be it

Something we say when someone decides to ignore advice and do something we dissaprove of..

To have a head for heights

Used to describe someone who isn’t worried about being high up.

To have your head in the clouds

To be living in a fantasy, often used to describe people who are absentminded or impractical.


To have eyes in the back of your head

Used to describe people who always seem to know what you are doing (usually mothers or teachers).

To be a bighead

We call someone a bighead if they’re acting in a conceited way.

Eat your heart out

If someone says eat your heart out followed by the name of a famous person, they are joking that they are even better than that person.

Have a heart

Ask someone to be kinder to you.


Suffering from or exhibiting overwhelming sorrow, grief, or disappointment.


Something that causes a feeling gladness and pleasure.


Someone who is very kind and generous.

To warm the cockles of your heart

Something you see or hear that makes you feel happy because it shows that people can be kind and good.

A heel

A person who treats other people badly and unfairly.

Achilles heel

A small fault or weakness in a person or system that can result in its failure.

Down at heel

To look shabby due to a lack of money

To be under the heel

To be completely controlled by something or someone.

Cheek by jowl

If things or people are cheek by jowl, they are very close together.

To have a knees up


To have a party.

To be near the knuckle

If something (usually a joke or a remark) is near the knuckle, it is about sex in a way that some people find offensive.

To rap someone’s knuckles


A light punishment which warns you not to behave in a particular way again.

A knuckle sandwich

A punch.

A white knuckle ride

A scary ride.

To give someone a leg up

To help someone onto or over something or to help them improve their situation, especially at work.

To pull someone’s leg

To try to persuade someone to believe something which is not true as a joke.

To stretch your legs

To  move around after having been in one place or position for a long time.

To talk the hind leg(s) off a donkey

To talk for a long time without stopping.

Many a slip twixt cup and lip

Used to imply that even when the outcome of an event seems certain, things can still go wrong.

To cross someone’s mind

To think about something or someone.

To have a big mouth

If someone says you have a big mouth, they think you talk too much, especially about things that should be secret 

To be down in the mouth

To feel sad or depressed.

Word of mouth

In speech but not in writing.

A muffintop

The roll of flesh that is visible above a waistband.

To have a brass neck

Someone who is extremely confident about themselves and are unable to understand that their behaviour is unacceptable to others.

To breathe down somebody‘s neck

To stay so close to someone, watching everything that they do, that it’s annoying.

To get it in the neck

To be punished or severely criticized for something that you have.

To be up to your neck in something

To be very involved in a situation, or to have too much of the thing stated.

A bag (bundle) of nerves

To be very nervous.

A lot of nerve

To be brash, rude or arrogent.

To get on someone’s nerves

To annoy someone.

To win by a nose

To win by a very small margin.

Cut off your nose to spite your face

To do something because you are angry, even if it is not in your best interest.

Keep your nose to the grindstone


To work hard.

It’s no skin off my nose


You can use this expression to show that you don’t care if something happens or not.

To powder your nose.

When a woman says she is going to «powder her nose», she means she is going to the toilet.

To get up somebody’s nose.

To annoy someone.

Turn your nose up at something

To not like something because you think it is not good enough for you.

To be head and shoulders above

Used to describe someone who is superior.

A shoulder to cry on

Used to describe someone who gives you sympathy when you are upset.

Skeleton in the closet / cupboard

If you have a skeleton in the cupboard it means you have are hiding a shocking secret about yourself.

To have a thick skin/ To be thick skinned

If you are thick-skinned, you do not notice or get upset when people criticize you.

To have a thin skin/ To be thin skinned.

If you are thin-skinned, you get upset when people criticize you, or think people are critisizing you when they aren’t.

By the skin of your teeth

To only just manage to do something.

To get your teeth into something

To get completely involved in something.

A kick in the teeth

To feel very disappointed when someone lets you down, or life treats you unfairly. (Unless it’s a real kick in the teeth during a fight.)

To jump down someone’s throat

To react angrily to something that someone says or does.

To ram something down someone’s throat

To try and force someone  to accept something against their will.

To have a frog in your throat

To have a tight feeling in your throat and be unable to speak clearly until you give a slight cough.

To have a green thumb

If you have a green thumb or even green thumbs it means you are good at gardening, or growing plants.

To twiddle your thumbs

To do nothing or to have nothing useful to do while you are waiting for something to happen.

Toe the line

To conform to certain rules or standards.

To keep on your toes


To keep on your toes, or to keep someone else on their toes, makes them stay alert and conscious of everything going on.

To bite your tongue

When you stop yourself from saying something because you realise it might cause offense or be hurtful.

Has the cat got your tongue?

Something someone else might say to you if you don’t say anything to them.

The tip of your tongue

The feeling you get when you know something, but you just can’t actually remember it.

A slip of the tongue

When you say something that you did not mean to say.

Tongue in cheek

When you say something as a joke, although you might appear to be serious.

To be tongue tied

Describes the feeling (familiar to many language learners) that you get when you can’t seem to find the right words to say, and so you are unable to speak. As if your tongue were tied in knots.

To be long in the tooth


To be too old for something.

To make somebody’s hair stand on end

To frighten.

To split hairs 

To cavil.

To get into somebody’s hair

To annoy.


To get under smb.’s skin

To annoy.

To skin smb. alive 

To punish very cruel.

Neck and neck 

The same height etc.

To have a frog in one’s throat

Not to be able to a say a single word.

To ram smth. down smb.’s throat



To jump down smb.’s

To force somebody to do something by endlessly talking about it.


To criticize.

To have a lump in one’s throat

To be overwhelmed by emotions.

To step on smb.’s toes

To give smb. a cold

To hurt someone’s feelings

To put one’s shoulder to the wheel

To work very hard.

To rub shoulders

To communicate.

Straight from the shoulder

To say frankly.

To be head and shoulders above somebody

To be much better than somebody.

Dead on one’s feet

Exhausted, very tired.


To keep one’s feet on the ground

To be a realist.

To land in both feet

To overcome some problem without any losses

To wait on somebody’s hand and foot

To help someone in everything.

To kiss the hare’s foot

To be late

To get off on the wrong foot

To make a mistake at the beginning.

To set foot

To visit.

To get one’s feet wet

To gain experience.

To drag one’s feet

To trail.

To get\have cold feet

To get lost.

To put one’s best foot forward


To make a good impression.

To have one’s foot in the grave

To be near to one’s death.

To put one’s foot down

To insist on your opinion.

Fast\quick on one’s feet

To be light for lifting.

To get a foot in the door

To make the first step.


To be on your way

To land on one’s feet

To dispose of troubles

To put one’s foot into one’s mouth


To say something inappropriate and offensive